The last 12 – 15 months have been pretty crazy and stressful, and I haven’t had the ability, or desire, to find time to dedicate to pursuits outside of work. However, fingers crossed, those times have hopefully come to a close.
I spent some time this week reviewing my Goodread stats, and I really have not been reading a lot. I don’t know if I have just not had the time, if I am just not enjoying what I am reading, or if it has been the result of a conscious choice to read more slowly, to try and take more in. (This may also be a side effect of the professional exams I have been taking – studying does not get any easier.) Regardless, here is a quick run down of every book I have read since last April, with short and sweet reviews.
‘Hyperion’ – Dan Simmons – I enjoyed this, it was a challenging read, but at the end of it, I did not have any desire to continue further with this series. I may revisit it at some point, but my to-read list is growing and growing, which is not aided by a manager at work continually passing me books.
‘Range of Ghosts’ – Elizabeth Bear – I did enjoy this, and it inspired me to do more research into the Mongols and the history surrounding this era. While the book is a fantasy, and uses the culture of the Mongols as a jumping off point, it is an engrossing read. I started to read the second book in this series and just couldn’t get into it. It is part way finished on my Kindle and I really hope to go back to it at some point, however, (see reason above)
‘Caspian Rain’ – Gina B Nahai – I have no idea how I came across this book, it just seemed to be on my Kindle. It was OK. Nothing to write home about, it is a story told from the perspective of a young girl whose mother is in an unhappy marriage, in difficult circumstances. The young girl doesn’t quite understand what is going on, and in the meantime is having problems of her own with school and her own life. Neither she, nor her mother, nor multiple doctors can diagnose the problem, which is finally revealed at the end.
‘The Shining Girls’ – Laura Beukes – I was so excited about reading this, and the reality was just a bit…disappointing. It is the story of a woman who narrowly being avoided being murdered by a serial killer. The serial killer specifically targets, ‘The Shining Girls’, and the book is propelled by trying to establish what makes these woman his targets, why he kills them when he does, and whether the protagonist can stop him. However, through into this some time travel, and it sounds amazing. Right? No. It was good, it kept me turning pages, but there was something lacking.
‘The House’ – A. O’Connor – Just no. This was so, so terrible. I can’t remember if I bought this, or I got it for free, but just, don’t waste your time on this. I did, so you didn’t have to. It is set in the Republic of Ireland during the financial boom, then bust, and tells the history of a house and its inhabitants through both modern day protagonists, who then try to solve the mystery of what happened in the past. It was dull, predictable, and has subsequent books. Don’t bother. Seriously.
‘The Sky is Everywhere’ – Jandy Nelson – When I was running through my list I was like, ‘I don’t even remember reading this. It must have been awful?’, but apparently not. I gave it 4 stars, and then it came back to me. It was really beautifully written, with stunning poetry throughout (which is saying something, as in general I am not a big fan of poetry, unless it is WW1 poetry, which reduces me to a sobbing mess on the floor…). It is the story of a girl who is trying to find herself in the world, after her older sister has died. I just loved it. If you like teen novels, you should go for this one.
‘A Wizard of Earthsea’ – Ursula K. Le Guin – What can I really add to this? A classic fantasy novel by the wonderful Ursula K. Le Guin. If you haven’t read it, you should. Need to read the rest of the books in this series…once I find time.
‘Vermilion – The Adventures of Lou Merriweather, Psychopomp’ – Molly Tanzer – Right, I absolutely loved this, but I described it to one of my friend’s and she said it sounded like the most trashy novel. She is wrong. Here is the description from Amazon:
“Gunslinging, chain smoking, Stetson-wearing Taoist psychopomp, Elouise “Lou” Merriwether might not be a normal 19-year-old, but she’s too busy keeping San Francisco safe from ghosts, shades, and geung si to care much about that. It’s an important job, though most folks consider it downright spooky. Some have even accused Lou of being more comfortable with the dead than the living, and, well… they’re not wrong”
Yea, if you don’t want to read that, there is something wrong with you.
‘Only Ever Yours’ – Louise O’Neill – This book was amazing, I literally could not put it down. This is set in a school where the girls have been from birth, and they are forced to compete to be the most beautiful, most perfect girl. The have no access to the outside world, and the prize at the end of their ‘schooling’ is that for their whole final year, they will compete to get the most eligible man. It is a brutal satire on the modern world, a fantastic dystopian, and you should totally read it.
‘Uprooted’ – Naomi Novik – I am going to preface this review with the fact that I loved the first few ‘Temeraire’ books, also by Novak, but this novel just didn’t hit the mark with me. It was both slow moving, and then too fast moving. The way the story was resolved felt lacking to me. The writing was beautiful, and the plot original, however, my I seem to very much be in the minority with my opinion on this. The protagonist lives in a village, near an enchanted forest. In the meantime, the ‘Dragon’, lives on the hill, in a castle of sorts, and he is effectively a type of Lord over the area, and there is a ‘Choosing’, after a set number of years, where he picks a girl from the area to come and live with him and work as a serving girl. These two plot lines then entangle to reveal a world that the protagonist never knew existed.
‘The Art of Asking’ – Amanda Palmer – This is effectively an autobiography of sorts by Amanda Palmer, and outlines how she came to realise the importance of asking for what you need in life. It was inspired by her TED talk of the same name. I really enjoyed it, and I wasn’t sure if I would, as I go through phases were I love Palmer, and then phases where she really irritates me, but it was a fantastic read, and even if you have only a passing interest in Palmer of the Dresden Dolls, I would recommend this.
‘The Martian’ – Andy Weir – I am assuming that most people know the plot of this by now, even if they haven’t seen the movie, but for the uninitiated, it is the story of an Astronaut who gets stranded on Mars and has to work out how to survive until NASA can reach him and take him home. It was funny, well written, well paced, and while there were a few sections that I skipped – mostly science type bits that I couldn’t really follow – it was a wonderful read, and I genuinely did not expect the ending.
‘Furiously Happy’ – Jenny Lawson – Jenny Lawson, also known as ‘The Bloggess’, is a fixture on the world wide web, known for her sense of humour, irreverent take on things, and her never ending arguments with her husband, Victor. I don’t know how I came across her, but I loved her first book, ‘Let’s Pretend This Never Happened’, which was hilarious and had me in stitches that I couldn’t quite explain to other people, so I was so excited to read this book. However, it was a bit of a let down for me, I didn’t feel it was as funny as the last one, or that it really added anything. Once again, I seem to be in the minority here, as it has wonderful reviews everywhere. It goes through Jenny’s history with depression and mental illness, physical illness, how she manages this and how she gets through life by focusing on being ‘Furiously Happy’. If you like her blog, you will probably like this. Unless you are me apparently.
Right, I am going to stop there. That takes me through about a third of the books I have read to date. If you made it this far – well done. Part 2 shall be posted next Sunday. Until then my comrades!